Curses have been in the headlines of the 2018 Russia World Cup stories this year. Germany suffered the World Cup Champions Curse when it was eliminated by Mexico. England broke it’s penalty kicks curse in an elimination game to advance to the quarterfinals.
Curses are not just limited to soccer. Major League Baseball teams like the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs have been the victims of curses that have stretched over decades. Kevin Durant was said to be under the curse of rapper Lil B while playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder. When Durant and the Thunder blew a 3-1 lead in the 2016 National Basketball Association Western Conference Finals, social media pointed to the curse.
Curses have existed throughout history. Long before sports, curses were mystical attacks used for protection or evil. They could only be broken by following a specific series of actions. Some could be removed by the person casting them, others were permanent. Many are limited to a region or generations in a family.
A curse is a hex, a spell, a casting or a consequence. Curses have their roots in ancient Egypt, India, Asia, Persia, Greece, Roman, and Europe. There are modern incarnations in Latin and Carribean regions that are blended with Catholicism and Christianity.
Curses can use a physical object like an effigy or a voodoo doll. Often, it can require as little as a strand of hair or a line of sight of the intended target.
“There are, he assures her, no such things as curses. There is luck, maybe, bad or good. A slight indication of each day toward success or failure. But no curses.”
― Anthony Doerr,
Like belief, curses are as much a manifestation of the person giving them as it is of a person receiving them. Someone can tell us we are cursed or we can decide that some form of insight has revealed to us that we are cursed.
“Truly, thou are damned, like an ill-roasted egg, all on one side. ”
William Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act 3. Chapter 2. Scene 21.
Curses were something originally handed down by gods or spiritual figures. Later, someone who was of a specific age or had access to esoteric knowledge was attributed with the ability or power to cast a curse.
The first biblical reference is the curse of Adam and Eve. Eating from the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil led to a banishment from the Garden of Evil. When their son Cain kills his brother Abel, Cain is cursed by God and forced to carry a mark to designate his shame. These two curses are called Original Sins. The Christian faiths hold that they are a generational curse that has infected all of mankind.
“A lot of people don’t believe in curses.
A lot of people don’t believe in yellow-spotted lizards either, but if one bites you, it doesn’t make a difference whether you believe in it or not.”
― Louis Sachar,
Just because you don’t believe in something, that does not mean it is not true. Studies have shown that our thinking can make us act like something is true and impact the odds that it is or will appear to us to be true. Does the same thing work for curses? Do they exist in our psyche and we bring them to life when we hear the suggestion that we are cursed?
Or are they manifestations of influence that exist outside our natural world and we are helpless until they have finished with their tasks?
“There is only one curse that really exists and that is to believe naively that curses really exist!”
― Mehmet Murat ildan
“Many a man curses the rain that falls upon his head and knows not that it brings abundance to drive away the hunger.”
One of the secrets to our evolution is the ability to recognize patterns. It’s a gift that allowed the Mayans to read the stars and plot the course of constellations. Artisans since ancient Greece, Egypt, and Persia unlocked the beauty of mosaics and the marvels of engineering.
The curse is how we choose to interpret those patterns. Interpretation helped us unlock the first mysteries of the universe and the shape of the fulcrum and the lever. But, choosing to interpret patterns through emotion makes them susceptible to subjectivity. Just like a tongue twister, the truth can be shaped to sound like something very different than it was originally intended.
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